After 10 years of discussion and a year of preparatory work, the joint city-county demolition team took down its first house on Thursday.
Alderwoman Kim Brumley, C-3rd Ward, said she was there at 8 a.m. to see the house on Swan Street come down.
“Are you kidding me, after a year I’m going to see this thing come down?” she said. “It was awesome.”
City Engineer Richard Phillips said the three-member crew, all Montgomery County workers, knocked the small frame house down in about 20 minutes, using a backhoe with a claw attachment.
The crew spent the rest of the day loading debris and rubble into a truck provided by the Montgomery Otsego Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority (MOSA).
“It’s really great to see it actually happening. You know, in my experience with projects as an engineer in general, there is so much time behind the scenes with getting a project started, and this has been like that,” Phillips said.
Phillips, who has served as the city’s engineer for less than a year, has been working closely with other members of the Demolition Committee: Brumley; Aldermen Daniel Roth, R-2nd Ward; city Supervisor Barbara Johnson; Paul Clayburn, the county’s commissioner of public works; city Fire Chief Richard Liberti; and Plumbing Inspector Irwin Harnish.
The group has been meeting at least twice a month for the past year to push legislation, compile documents, purchase equipment and train employees.
“They have been working diligently to see this come to fruition,” Mayor Ann Thane said. “They are the ones that deserve the gratitude.”
A lot of progress had been made in 2008 toward completing this mission, Clayburn said. Seven employees from the county were trained in asbestos removal and equipment was purchased for their work. Clayburn said the county also had to negotiate with the union for wages for asbestos removal work.
The county also dedicated $500,000 for demolition work, including providing workers, equipment and money for the landfill fees.
Clayburn said he attributes the project’s success to the creation of an intermunicipal shared services committee co-chaired by Brumley and Johnson.
Politicians have been discussing the idea of a shared services program to demolish dilapidated homes in the city since the 1990s, Johnson said. Committee members Wednesday were excited that the initiative was finally working.
“I know many people through the years have worked on it and for one reason or another it didn’t make it, but we really persevered this time,” Brumley said.
Roth said he was “absolutely” excited to see the first house down after a year in office working on this project.
“We were focused. We all want to see Amsterdam come back and the surrounding communities excel,” Roth said. “Hopefully, this will spur good morale.”
Given the success of the demolition team, shared services committee members say they hope they can find more areas for cooperation.
“Hopefully this is just the beginning to cleaning up the city at a cheaper cost,” Johnson said.
Phillips said the crew should finish most of the project by the end of the week and by next week will move on to demolish a larger brick structure that has partially collapsed. That building is located at 182 W. Main St.
Phillips said everyone who stopped by the site on Thursday, including various community members and politicians, was pleased.
“Everyone is kind of smiling when they see something good happening,” Phillips said.
Brumley said she thinks the entire city is excited about the demolition.
“For years we’ve talked about cooperating, consolidating and sharing, and it happened, and it’s good for everyone,” she said.